Remember in the old days when you used to come back from the record shop having spent your hard earned pocket money, in my case from a paper round, with an album which you then proceeded to play while pouring over the sleeve and drinking in every second of the music that was on it.
This sort of reminiscing has become almost a cliche for some of us of a certain age, but it is nevertheless a valid and emotive origin story for a music fan. This is something that has tended to wane as music is more and more available on demand, and we get more disposable income and tend to be able to buy more and more music. This is something that has been further impacted by the pandemic as even record shops are closed at the moment and even vinyl purchases can only be done virtually.
Nevertheless, this week has felt a bit different for me because the four records that have arrived on my doorstep have each given me something like that feeling from times gone by. I am not sure what is going on here, whether I was just in the right mood or whether it was something about the albums themselves. Two of them (Hey Colossus and Pharoah Overlord) were ones that I had listened too quite a lot last year but never got round to buying. The other two (Kikagaku Moyo and Wasted Cathedral) are live albums that perhaps awoke my yearning for live music. All I know is that I listened to all four of these records like it was 1980 all over again and nothing else at that moment seemed to matter.
LIVE AT LEVITATION BY KIKAGAKU MOYO (THE REVERBERATION APPRECIATION SOCIETY)
Let’s get one thing straight immediately, Kikagaku Moyo are a terrific live band. I have seen them on many an occasion now, and they have never been less than thrilling. I’d probably go as far as to say that their gig at the Star and Garter in Manchester in May 2016 was the best I’ve witnessed in recent times… the level of intensity and connection was just phenomenal… it was one of those evenings when everything just felt seamless.
This album is taken from two live sets: the Austin Psych Fest in 2014, and the Levitation Festival in 2019. Both take you pretty far into the Kikagaku Moyo live experience. In fact when I first listened to this album this week it’s the closest I’ve felt to live music since I last went to a gig just under a year ago…. having not looked at the ‘set list’ in advance I genuinely whooped when some of the tracks started and really felt present at certain times during the set. A genuinely thrilling experience from a superb band.
DANCES/ CURSES BY HEY COLOSSUS (WRONG SPEED)
Hey Colossus have been putting out records for years, and I have been buying them. However, for some reason I just didn’t get round to fully appreciating ‘Dances/ Curses’ when it came out… and it kind of fell off the edge of my radar. However when I got the notification that a fourth press was coming out, and that this was going to be in a Japanese-style hardback gatefold sleeve, I jumped at the chance to own something a bit different.
When it arrived this week I really did feel like a kid again as I poured over the cover and marvelled at its heft. Of course it’s nigh on impossible to get the records in the damn thing… but, hey, who buys vinyl for the convenience? It’s a beauty and that is something matched by the four sides of wax that it reluctantly houses.
And this is another reason why this was such a great experience. I think that this might just be the best thing that Hey Colossus have done… it feels like a mature rock album at a time when such things are few and far between, without straying into the banal and self-absorbed. This is one of those records that feels just right in the way in melds together familiar ideas with more leftfield experimentalism. In short it was the perfect listen for me, and I just lapped it up.
SUN SHOWER: LIVE AT THE OTTAWA PSYCH FEST II BY WASTED CATHEDRAL (NOISEAGONYMAYHEM)
Wasted Cathedral is a solo project of Chris Laramee (Shooting Guns/ Radiation Flowers) and comprises a number of excellent releases which are pretty diverse in their conception. I ordered this live album completely blind… or should that be deaf?… anyway I’d no idea what it was going to be like but acquired it in the belief that anything that Chris does it going to be not less than interesting.
This certainly paid dividends because I put the record on my turntable for the first time this week and found myself utterly transported to a far away place where the only limitation was the power of my mind. The two exceptional sonic meditations that occupy one side each of this disc are just wonderful and gave me a sense of utter peace… an oasis in a sea of shit that this pandemic has brought. After listening to it I felt weirdly cleansed and supremely relaxed and laid back… I can only imagine how zoned those in the audience were when they first heard this.
6 BY PHAROAH OVERLORD (ROCKET RECORDINGS)
As with ‘Dances/ Curses’ I was a bit late to the Pharoah Overlord show. It took me a while to put the synthy krautrock/ disco beats together with Aaron Turner’s ‘death metal’ growl in my head… It was like looking at an optical illusion for long enough, then once you see it it clicks and you cannot see it any other way… so it was with this album. Once I had mentally fitted together the two disparate elements the whole thing melded together in a gestalt manner and blossomed into something that is beautifully dystopian.
Honestly there is so much going on in this album… so many different moods and ideas… and many of them happening at the same time it is like some gorgeous mind-fuck which is alluringly scary and utterly compelling.
Up to this week, however, I had only heard it on Spotify through headphones… however hearing in the glorious aural technicolour that is vinyl it really open up a whole new level of experience with this set. I was freshly astounded as the growl became more gruff and the music became sharper and the bass really kicked in. It reminded me afresh of the value of listening to certain recordings via a turntable… and, again, gave me that child-like feeling of discovery.
…and that is why it has largely been a good week this week. I have bought four albums that are absolute keepers and, each in their own way, provided me with something that has made my life better. At times like this you need things to keep you going, to keep you mentally balanced…. to just have something to enjoy. These four albums have given me an enormous amount of enjoyment this week… they have made me feel about music in a way that is unique and satisfying… almost as if I’m listening to it and experiencing it for the first time. And in these gig-free social distancing moments that can only be a good thing.
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